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Movistar launches two-pronged approach at Giro d'Italia mountains.









20.05.2016 @ 09:58 Posted by Jesper Ralbjerg

To the surprise of nobody, Alejandro Valverde's refusal to cooperate with Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) in the finale of stage 11 of the Giro d'Italia on Wednesday was ill received by the Italian and all quarters of the media in the host country.


Valverde's outward renunciation of responsibility allowed his Movistar teammate Andrey Amador to join Valverde and Nibali and thus tighten his grip on second place on general classification. This, in turn, has raised questions about the precise order of his Movistar team.

As the Giro prepares to scale the high mountains, Amador lies second overall, just 24 seconds down on Bob Jungels (Etixx-QuickStep) but some 43 seconds ahead of his elected leader Valverde. Last year, Amador surprised all and sundry by finishing fourth in the Giro, and so far he has performed strongly in the race's two time trials, and then went on the offensive in each of the two stages that followed Monday's rest day.


"Up to now, Andrey has shown that last year didn't happen by chance," Movistar manager Eusebio Unzue told Cyclingnews. "He has a certain amount of experience in the Giro, he knows it well and he's in good form right now. He has been able to stay with the strongest on the climbs so far. We're coming into the big mountains now and we'll see things more clearly there, but I think he can be good there too."

Evidently, Movistar came to Italy with Valverde as their designated team leader and the 36-year-old has shown no signs of weakness so far, going toe to toe with Nibali in the Chianti time trial and stealing seconds in the uphill finishes at Roccaraso and Sestola.


Yet Amador's strength and consistency throughout the first ten days – and, more importantly, his tactically valuable position overall – mean that his position within the team has changed. While Valverde's credentials remain intact, Amador will not be relegated to a mere domestique just yet.


"Yes, the idea setting out was that [Valverde would be the sole leader] but sometimes during the race someone else can emerge," Unzue said. "For the moment we'll play with both of them and use that as our strategy. We can attack with one or the other. We have two cards. Alejandro is the leader but without closing off the possibilities for anyone else. That's always been our policy."


That strategical approach proved less successful at last year's Tour, where many pundits speculated that Quintana might have toppled Chris Froome (SKY) had it not been for the team’s eagerness to place both Valverde and the Colombian on the podium.


"The Giro's a bit of a different race but when someone is strong, he is strong everywhere," Unzue said of Valverde's prospects. "He's an experienced man, a man who's been on the podium of the Vuelta six times. Nine months ago, he was on the podium of the Tour. There is no reason to doubt him, no reason not to believe in him. This Giro is a big opportunity."


The weekend's trio of mountain stages ought to bring greater definition to the general classification picture.

"I think we have to wait for these mountain stages to see, because up to now nobody – not Alejandro, not Andrey, not Nibali, not Fuglsang – has shown that he is stronger than the rest," Unzue said. "There isn't much of a gap on the classification and you can't see clearly who is the strongest. It's the big question and this weekend might start to show us who is really prepared."


The coming three stages are likely to shed light on Movistar’s approach for the final week. Until then, the team seems to be happy keeping everyone guessing.



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